During G20 meeting, Trump says Mexico will absolutely finance wall, but President Pea Nieto allows comments to go unchallenged
Donald Trump has again humiliated Mexicos president Enrique Pea Nieto by repeating his claim in the presence of the Mexican leader that Americas southern neighbour would pay for a border wall.
Pea Nieto allowed Trumps comments to go unchallenged when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hamburg on Friday.
Asked by reporters if he expected Mexico to finance a border wall, Trump responded: Absolutely. Pea Nieto sat silently next to him.
The meeting the first between the two leaders since Trump took office again highlighted Trumps insensitivities toward Mexico, while Pea Nietos passivity brought back bad memories for many Mexicans.
Trump travelled to Mexico City when his campaign was sagging last August, and embarrassed Pea Nieto in the presidential palace by speaking publicly of his plans for fencing of the frontier. The Mexican president was fiercely criticised for failing to contradict Trump.
Earlier this year, the Mexican government announced that the two presidents had agreed not to talk in public about the wall a deal that Trump has honored in the breach.
Trumps apparent inability to talk to Pea Nieto without offending Mexico, and the Mexican presidents apparent unwillingness to push back, have infuriated many Mexicans.
Carlos Bravo Regidor, a professor at the Centre for Teaching and Research in Economics in Mexico City, said: Trump broke the deal they had of not talking about the wall in public. And Pea Nieto should have called him, right there, to his face on. He didnt.
Trump is a bully, but Pea Nieto is a coward.
Jorge Ramos, the Univision anchor whom Trump expelled from a press conference during the campaign, tweeted: Trump says again that Mexico will pay for the wall. When will [Pea Nieto] dare to say to his face and in public that Mexico will not pay?
Leon Krauze, a prominent Mexican journalist, contrasted Pea Nietos behaviour with that of the French president Emanuel Macron, who greeted Trump with a white-knuckle handshake. Macron understood what EPN did not: in the face of Trumps schoolyard diplomacy, you have to act firmly in public. What counts is what is visible, he tweeted.
The two presidents were scheduled to meet 31 January in Washington, but Pea Nieto cancelled the visit after Trump tweeted his Mexican counterpart shouldnt bother coming if the wall wasnt on the agenda.
Before Trumps inauguration, Mexico had feared the worst from a Trump administration, but so far, it has not experienced the disaster many had anticipated.
The Mexican peso tumbled after Trumps election victory, but has raced back in 2017 as investors increasingly believe the president will be unable to enact his protectionism.
In a television address recorded before he headed to the G20, Trump repeated previous threat to tear up the Nafta free trade deal: We are pursuing a total renegotiation of Nafta. And if we dont get it we will terminate that is end Nafta forever.
Nafta negotiations are scheduled to start in August but despite Trumps threats, expectations are the treaty will be tweaked rather than terminated which may explain Pea Nietos apparent eagerness to avoid open confrontation.
This government has decided to defend Nafta at any expense, including our dignity, said Brenda Estefan, a foreign policy analyst.
Still, many in Mexico expressed exasperation with trying to appease a president some historians have called the biggest foreign threat to Mexico since President James Polk, author of the Mexican-American war.
Pea Nieto tweeted later to say he had had a productive meeting with Trump, in which they reviewed advances in migration, security and economic development.
In a radio interview, Mexicos foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, described the meeting as friendly and respectful and said the wall was not discussed.
He said of Trumps comments: I didnt her it. Pea also didnt hear it.